The word “law” is used in many different ways in the Scriptures so it is important to understand its meaning in the context it is used. In fact, identifying the context of a particular word, verse, or passage in the Bible is a primary principle that should govern one’s interpretation of the Word of God. When Psalm 119:1 says that the blessings of God are for those who walk in the law of the Lord, was He talking about the Ten Commandments and other dos and don’ts given to Moses? Or is He speaking of something more basic than living under a bunch of rules and regulations.
How blessed are those whose way [derek – the pathways of life] is blameless [tamiym – linked to truth, virtue, uprightness], who walk in the law [torah – instruction, direction, doctrine] of the Lord. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart. They also do no unrighteousness; they walk in His ways. (Psalm 119:1-3)
There is no consensus as to the author of Psalm 119, but it is very evident that its theme is the Word of God and the writer uses many different synonyms to communicate deeper spiritual truths regarding the role it should play in a believer’s life. These synonyms include not only law, but also commandment, precept, statute, testimony, ordinance, judgement, way, and word. A closer look at the original Hebrew language helps us to understand the nuances of each term. For instance, the Hebrew for “law” is “torah” and its basic meaning is instruction or direction. When I apply that meaning to Psalm 119:1, it takes on the idea of being willing to be taught by God within the details of my life, the way that I conduct myself. The Hebrew poetic language used also employs the repetition of compatible thoughts to reinforce the meaning. Those who walk in the law are those whose way by extension is blameless or virtuous.
Living under the authority of God’s instruction is to allow Him to direct the believer through the valleys as well as mountaintop experiences. It is acknowledging that the blessed one is never alone, but walks through the valley of the shadow of death and fears no evil since He walks with him. His only fear is associated with the fear of the Lord, a reverence or high respect for Him and His ways.
One Lawgiver and Judge
One way to know that the believer is employing these truths can be seen in the way he treats others. James’ letter says that “He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law, but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it” (James 4:11). Walking in the law is not a religious thing to be imposed on others, but it is a way of life that can draw others to the One who continuously directs lives. This type of walk makes faith in God real and is proven by the way we treat others and therefore the way they react to this life.
Abiding in the Vine
When Jesus walked the earth, He made a profound statement in John 14:6 when asked about the way to go: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me”. In this passage, Philip asks Jesus to “show us the Father” and Jesus answered that to come to know Jesus by His words and ways is to come to know the Father. He was teaching them about the principle of abiding, that just as Jesus was abiding in His Father and therefore doing the works of His Father, they could participate in those works. In fact, Jesus said that those who believe in and put their trust in Him will participate in greater works than those Jesus performed (John 14:12).
In John 15, Jesus gives us more insight into abiding when He speaks about the relationship of the grapevine and its branches. Since the life source of the branch comes from the vine, it cannot survive without the vine. In verse 5, He says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” There is a life exchange between the vine and its branches. When the branch recognizes the quality of this relationship and all its possibilities, it is a game changer. Practically speaking, this relationship is fulfilled in the believer’s willingness to walk in the law of the Lord. He understands that instruction, being directed by the Word of God and His Spirit produces much fruit, represented by His works, the Father’s works. In verse 8, this fruit is proof to the Father that we are a disciple.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.” (Psalm 19:7-10)
Psalm 19 gives us further insight into the ability and character of the law of the Lord. Not only does it restore the soul, but it also makes wise the simple and rejoices the heart and enlightens the eyes. This supernatural work of God by His word endures forever and is righteous altogether. Our challenge is to give into its calling and benefit from all its strengths and outpourings.